how to start an ethical closet without spending a dime

Selflessly Styled

When you picture switching to "ethical style" how do you envision your closet?

An Everlane coat hanging above a perfect pair of Nisolo shoes? Perhaps a Sseko bag effortlessly chilling on a chair?

Did you click on any of those links? If so, did you despairingly think:

 "There's NO WAY I can afford to stock my closet with ethical items." 

If the prices didn't phase you, congratulations - you make a lot more money than I do.

If the prices left you in a temporary paralysis - you're in good company. 

I remember the first time I visited the website of a fair-trade clothing brand... I wasn't inspired.

At all.

In fact, I remember thinking "Well good for you, people-who-buy-$30-handmade-socks, but some of us are just trying to pay the bills!" 

Needless to say, that was not the moment I decided to shop ethically. I clicked back over to the sale page of Forever 21 feeling like this whole "fair trade movement" was an elite club that I could never belong to. 

It was several years before I actually changed how I shop for clothes, and believe it or not, I don't spend any more money than I used to.

You may think "It sounds so overwhelming to get rid of all my stuff and buy a whole new wardrobe that wasn't made in sweatshops," ... YEP. You're right. That is a completely overwhelming thought and, honestly, totally unnecessary. 

The moment shopping ethically became attainable to me was the moment I realized that I didn't have to do it all at once.

Taking care of the clothes you already have is the FIRST STEP to shopping ethically. It doesn't cost a thing. The first two months that I cared about shopping responsibly, I literally didn't buy anything. (Mostly because I didn't know where to shop, now I know plenty of places and have to practice self-control!)

A huge part of shopping ethically is simply shopping less. Consuming less. Wasting less. 

Now, I happened to get rid of a ton of clothes when I jumped on the ethical-closet-train, but that was because I wanted to simplify, NOT because it's evil to wear that $5 H&M dress that I bought on a whim. 

I'm an ethical fashion blogger, and I still own several things that I know were probably made poorly and in very poor conditions.

And I will keep wearing those things until they wear out.

And when they wear out I will have saved up enough to replace them with ethically-made alternatives. 

Sometimes the most "ethical" thing to do is keep wearing your sweatshop-made clothes until they've become too tattered to work for you.

If you have a small budget (like I do), it's so freeing to have time to save for responsible replacements instead of the weight of a guilt-driven rush to change everything. 

So, friend, take a deep breath.

Put on that $10 tank top and get on with your life. When the tank top rips, come back here for some options. 

One day, eventually, you will have that ethical closet you envisioned, and it will feel so good! Part of the joy of a thoughtful & ethical wardrobe is the time and patience it takes to create it. 

Don't feel guilty about the labels you wear. Be thankful for what you have and treat it well. 

That is the first step.